Reasons for Joy; In Gentleness, and Respect.

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Apologetics and Theology / Admitting Error
« on: October 11, 2016, 08:42:19 am »
Would you say apologizing is contrary to human nature?

Have you ever realized later that you were completely "blind to reason" in judging or condemning someone?

Consider the famous example of Marilyn vos Savant and the Monty Hall Problem.

The Monty Hall Problem is a famous little probability puzzler that goes like this:

Imagine that you’re on a television game show and the host presents you with three closed doors. Behind one of them, sits a sparkling, brand-new Lincoln Continental; behind the other two, are smelly old goats. The host implores you to pick a door, and you select door #1. Then, the host, who is well-aware of what’s going on behind the scenes, opens door #3, revealing one of the goats.

“Now,” he says, turning toward you, “do you want to keep door #1, or do you want to switch to door #2?”

Marilyn vos Savant (famous for World's Highest IQ) gave a well-reasoned and correct response for why it's statistically better to switch doors.  However, after doing so, she got all sorts of irate answers from various mathematicians:

You blew it, and you blew it big! Since you seem to have difficulty grasping the basic principle at work here, I’ll explain. After the host reveals a goat, you now have a one-in-two chance of being correct. Whether you change your selection or not, the odds are the same. There is enough mathematical illiteracy in this country, and we don’t need the world’s highest IQ propagating more. Shame!
Scott Smith, Ph.D.
University of Florida

You are utterly incorrect about the game show question, and I hope this controversy will call some public attention to the serious national crisis in mathematical education. If you can admit your error, you will have contributed constructively towards the solution of a deplorable situation. How many irate mathematicians are needed to get you to change your mind?
E. Ray Bobo, Ph.D.
Georgetown University

May I suggest that you obtain and refer to a standard textbook on probability before you try to answer a question of this type again?
Charles Reid, Ph.D.
University of Florida

How do we account for this?  Mathematicians are well-known for being cool and rational and not jumping to conclusions.  But notice how none of them even engaged with Marilyn's reasoning!  They all just instantly wrote her off as wrong, and many started in with name-calling and gender-bashing.

So, what causes this blindness?

And look at some of the horrific ways this kind of thing has played out in history.  Think of the burning at the stake of Jan Hus.  No one actually engaged with his arguments.  He actively pleaded with his accusers to show him in scripture where his error was.  Also, consider the case of John Calvin and Michael Servetus.  In both of these cases, men were burnt at the stake for having an opinion that went utterly unanalyzed by their accusers.  The accusers simply gave a brief case for why their side was right without actually pinpointing where the accused's position was in error.  Same with Martin Luther at his Diet of Worms--Luther likewise pleaded with the court to show him in scripture where he erred, but his pleas evidently fell on deaf ears.

Is it pride, perhaps?  A result of our deep-seeded inability to apologize?

Knowing this kind of thing happens, I always actively try to consider other folks' points of view, and I'm always really quick to apologize when I see my error (even when I don't necessarily think I'm in error, I normally apologize out of sympathy for seeing hurt feelings in others).  But I routinely notice others only rarely grant me a similar courtesy. 

Apologetics and Theology / Morality and Might
« on: September 27, 2016, 09:47:56 am »
The notion that Might makes Right is likely controversial here, to say the least, because of the association with various nasties such as Nazism. 

However, ain't this principle the very basis of the Moral Argument?

P1. If God does not exist, OMV's do not exist.
P2. OMV's exist.
C1. Therefore, God exists.

What is our justification for P1, here?  The idea is that, without God, "anything goes".  But why might "anything go" without God?  AFAICT, the reason is that, without God, it's not the case that everyone can and will be held accountable.  IOW, anyone who is powerful enough can act as he pleases.

We could take a quick pit stop, here, and ask exactly what "moral values" are.  Perhaps an expedient definition would be something like, "Moral values is the set of things that people should or should not do."  Generally speaking, plain reason gives us an idea of things that "are" or "are not".  So how might we get "shoulds" or "should nots"? 

IMO, to get from "is" to "should", we need a particular goal.  For example, we could take our goal to be something like "promoting the maximum amount of human flourishing and the minimum amount of human suffering".  Depending on how precisely we word our goal, we can objectively derive plenty of shoulds and should nots.  For example, with even our simple and vague goal of minimizing suffering, we can instantly conclude that rape and murder are "should nots".   

So, in a sense, we can have "objective morality" without God.  What we may not have, though, is a universally agreed upon goal.  For example, suppose that the only people who exist are you and maybe ten or so other people.  And suppose the goal they came up with was "maximizing their happiness by making you as miserable as possible".  So, suppose it made everyone happy to throw mud at you, and suppose it made you miserable.  Then it's objectively true that throwing mud at you is a "should" regarding that goal.

You might object that a better goal would be something like maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering.  In that case, throwing mud at you is objectively wrong.  But if that goal were contrary to everyone else's desires, then why on earth would they adopt such a goal as the end of their moral values?

The might in place has decided that throwing mud at you is good.  And it's objectively true that such an act is in line with their goal.   If you want your goal to be put into effect, then you must appeal to a greater might.  But if that small group of people were the only might, and if they all found your goal unappealing, or downright appalling, then what recourse could you possibly have?  Given the lack of might to enforce and support your proposed moral system, it is simply ineffective.

In sum, if you want a just and effective moral system that transcends those that conform to the fickle goals of the fickle powers that be, then your only hope is a might that is greater than any of the possible powers that be, and that has an unwavering goal of justice.  In other words, you need a just, powerful, and immutable God.  Thinking along these lines, we can propose a modified version of the Moral Argument.

P1. If there is no God, then there is no just, unchanging, and effective Moral System.
P2. There is a just, unchanging, and effective Moral System.
C1. Therefore God exists.

IMO, the blue paragraph is a summary of the support of P1.  Also, the support of P2 is our intuitive sense that certain things must be not only "right", but effectively right, even if all indications were that all worldly might opposed it.  Though, that's probably the "weak link" of the argument.

Apologetics and Theology / "Straw Gods" and Salvation
« on: September 23, 2016, 11:11:39 am »
Suppose for the moment that all of Pentecostalism is false.  That is, suppose all the "speaking in tongues" is mere gibberish, all the healings have been purely natural, all the "Spirit slayings" were merely the result of psychological frenzies, and so on.  Assume all of these charismatic experiences are entirely bogus.

If that's true, then would their worship of a "golden calf" God put them outside of salvation?

Now, on the other hand, suppose that Pentecostalism is, in fact, valid.  Would that mean that a hard cessationist, such as myself, has cut himself off from the Spirit, and has therefore sealed his own damnation?

Apologetics and Theology / Who's Dying to Hear Emuse's Atheism "Testimony"?
« on: September 20, 2016, 09:21:35 am »
Emuse is clearly a very intelligent and articulate poster who is very good at pointing out inconsistencies in the positions of many theists (even if they're unwilling to play along and learn from their mistakes).

Emuse has often hinted at how he's reluctantly lost faith, but he's never told the full story, as it would derail the focus of the thread.

But my interest has done been stoked!  And if you're like me, you're dying to know what factors could have contributed to such a bright young man losing faith.  I'm very curious to see if it had something to do with, say, a bad denomination that gave him a warped perspective on Christianity (eg, some snake-handling variety of Pentecostalism).

In any case, though, if you see this, and if you're comfortable sharing...then by all means, let's hear it, Emuse!  If not, though, I certainly respect your privacy.

Best wishes!

Apologetics and Theology / How Dangerous is Evolution?
« on: September 19, 2016, 11:47:54 am »
Do any of y'all believe that rejection of young earth creationism automatically costs you your soul?

My inclination is no.  I suspect it's possible to deny a literal Adam & Eve, as well as the literal Biblical genealogies, and still be saved.  But I'd be particularly interested in hearing from someone who thinks differently.

Apologetics and Theology / Parental Control over What Kids Learn
« on: September 19, 2016, 09:34:57 am »
Should parents be allowed to prevent having their children taught ideas contrary to their values (eg Evolution or the Big Bang)?

IMO, this is no big deal.  Plenty of Creationists have become medical doctors.  AFAICT, the only folks who'd ever need to know the theory of Evolution would be scientists like evolutionary biologists.  Any child with the talent to ever become an evolutionary biologist would likely find out about evolution on his own, through independent reading.  Also, I'd say that, in many ways, it takes more intelligence to learn good refutations of evolution than it does to learn the theory itself.  So, I'm simply not seeing any harm, here.

Apologetics and Theology / Snowden
« on: September 18, 2016, 04:56:06 pm »
Saw the Snowden movie today.

I admit it's at least "amusing" to think that folks are actually payed hard-earned tax dollars to get suspicious foreigners caught up in DUIs in order to get leverage over them.  And I guess it's equally hilarious that our government security agencies actually employ ponytailed hippies who probably don't even know how to salute to do "hacking" work (because I guess learning mad interwebz skills is beyond the abilities of the suit and tie G-man types, right?).  But to think that our government is stupid enough to think that a crew of hippie stooges could be entrusted with spying on its citizens without it blowing up in their faces?  C'mon, man!  What's the rub??  Surely they planned for this to happen.  But I am at a total loss on what the government had to gain by "letting it slip" that they paid likely ridiculously high salaries to bunch of guys who otherwise would be collecting Superman comics and living in mommy's basement to spy on our private emails and phone calls.  Maybe they want to shake us up, and make us worry that they've got dirt on us?  Or maybe I'm looking at it wrong--maybe they want us to think that because they were too incompetent to quietly take Snowden out before all this mess got out, that they're nothing to fear?

Total head scratcher, and no, I am simply not going to accept that the government didn't engineer this Snowden fiasco.  Yes, the American people are stupid, but there's no way that the most powerful government on earth could be so stupid, right?


Apologetics and Theology / Improving Education in America
« on: September 16, 2016, 01:04:25 pm »
What could be done to improve the American educational system?

I suspect many folks would say there should be a greater emphasis on academics.  But I disagree.  That's not in line with Americans' aptitude.  Look at any PhD program in science or mathematics.  You don't find many Smiths, Jones, or Browns, do you?  When it comes to academics, we have to import our brainpower.

My guess is that the best route would be improvements on career-specific training and physical conditioning.  If we're already doomed to be stupid, the last thing we want is to be lazy too.  So physical conditioning is self-explanatory. Also, career training is clearly an area where we're failing.  Look at all the kids who end up going to an academic college, only to flunk out in a couple years.  Then, they go to some expensive trade school for a certificate in electronics, only to be unable to read a basic wiring diagram upon graduation.  Such an appalling waste of time and money!  Imagine how much better it would have been if his parents had simply stopped his academic education by the ninth grade or so, and then sent him off for an apprenticeship in a trade.

In sum, I think the best solution is to save academics for the top 2-5% of students.  Of the rest, the top half should get roughly a middle school equivalent of academics, plus a skilled apprenticeship, and the bottom half should get OTJ training in unskilled labor.

Apologetics and Theology / Just How Solid Is Dr. WLC?
« on: September 15, 2016, 02:55:30 pm »
Suppose you were a philosophy professor and you asked your students to defend whether or not they believed in God.  If WLC were in your class and presented his typical views, would you be impressed?  Assume for the sake of this thought experiment that WLC is not a well-known philosopher with well-known views, but just a student.

What would your opinion be if you were teaching a freshman intro class?  What if it were a graduate theology class?

Apologetics and Theology / Church Deal Breakers
« on: September 05, 2016, 05:50:48 pm »
Would you consider any of these issues worth leaving a church over?

1. The Calvinism/Arminianism/Open Theism question?  Ie, would you stay in a church that preached contrary to your views on this?

2. The persistence of charismatic gifts.  If you were a cessationist, would you tolerate the crazy guy in your church who's always saying, "God has something for me to tell you"?  Or, if you ARE the crazy guy who always says, "God has something for me to tell you", then would you stay in a church where you were merely "reluctantly tolerated" instead of given your proper respect as a spiritually mature Christian prophet?

3. Centrality of the Word.  Would you stay somewhere without intense verse by verse study and exegetical preaching?  Or would you rather have the "latest & greatest" nonsense from Joel Osteen?

And are there other issues near and dear to your heart that would cause you to leave an otherwise good church?

Apologetics and Theology / What's Wrong with Calvinism?
« on: August 30, 2016, 11:18:54 am »
Suppose that the fate of mankind is absolutely and sovereignly controlled by God.  Every single nanoparticle--including those that make up our brain cells--is completely determined through the will of God.

Certainly, there's scriptural support for such a view:

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

So, the question is, What's wrong with such a view?

Does it render void any kind of "moral responsibility"?

I don't see how it does.  Just because everything is determined, doesn't mean there isn't "cause and effect".  God made the law so that he may be glorified in justly damning those who have broken it, and so that he may be glorified in showing mercy to the elect.  I fail to see how determinism robs God of any of this glory.

Does it make God the "Author of Evil"

God is the Author of reality.  He's no more guilty of evil than the J.K. Rowling is guilty of Lord Voldemort's shenanigans.  Besides, how can we judge God, anyway?  What sort of "moral obligations" does he have to us?  All we can know about God's goodness is that the law represents the bounds of acceptable behavior to him, that violations of the law are an offense against God, and that God in the flesh--Jesus--upheld the law perfectly.  Furthermore, his goodness is exemplified in that he set aside a group of folks to freely grant mercy to--no strings attached.

Apologetics and Theology / Healing the Blind with Mud
« on: August 26, 2016, 05:48:57 pm »
From the Gospel of John:

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay

Why might Jesus have used spit and dirt to heal blindness?

For example, why do you suppose it was done this way, rather than simply, "Thou art healed"?

Compare also to the account in Mark, where the blind man was healed in two stages.

Apologetics and Theology / The Great Commission
« on: August 25, 2016, 04:44:30 pm »

This is not my particular church's website, but those folks share my view that the Great Commission has already been fulfilled, and that modern "evangelism" should be "passive" rather than "active" (ie, Christians should be more concerned with living an exemplary life and answering questions when asked, rather than actively preaching or asking strangers, "If you were to die today, do you know where you'd go?").  Basically, I think modern Christians should be about as "evangelical" as the Amish.


In a thread that got locked, an atheist pointed out that Christians don't believe the ethics of the Bible.

The example cited was this:

Because we don't think a daughter should be stoned to death for believing in a different God no matter when she lived.

The relevant passage seems to be from Deuteronomy 13:

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

Does any Christian here disagree with the "ethics" of this?

Consider that you had just been led out of slavery in Egypt in such a way as to glorify God's name throughout the world. 

You were liberated from bondage, you crossed the miraculously parted Red Sea, and you were left to wander the desert for the rest of your days, never entering the "Promised Land" because of your lack of faith.  It's hard to imagine how a Jew of those times could ever be "unfaithful" or turn to other Gods, but the narrative indicates a fundamental problem with humanity--our minds are utter idol factories!  We cannot accept that anyone or anything has sovereign control of our lives.  So, we make idols that we can control (eg, golden calves, and things like that).  Now, Israel was supposed to be God's visible people on earth.  Given man's tendency towards idolatry, what might have become of God's people if there weren't severe measures in place for apostasy?

So, I'd say the law was there for a pretty good reason.

Today, though, there's a different "spiritual situation".  In OT days, who God's chosen people were was based more on Hebrew DNA; in today's NT times, it's more about belief.  In many ways, the OT is a physical metaphor for the spiritual NT.  So, in today's world, once someone is released from the bondage of Satan and crosses the parted Red Sea of baptism, if he should "fall away", then the punishment is the more "spiritual execution" of being disfellowshipped.  And what might happen if such folks aren't "spiritually executed" today?  The church loses its legitimacy as the "salt and light of the world".

Apologetics and Theology / God Music
« on: August 19, 2016, 02:52:02 pm »
One curious Christian conversion consequence I've noticed is an increased sensitivity to and appreciation for music.

Does anyone have any songs they find emotionally or theologically rich in conveying some aspect of Christianity, based on either the beat or the lyrics?

Holy Are You, by Rakim.  Rakim's not a Christian; he's a "'5%-er" which is an "apostate"--or at best, "nonstandard"--sect of Islam.  But I think this song does a good job, especially in the chorus, of capturing the awe one experiences in contemplating God's sovereignty or holiness.
Touch the Sky, by Hillsong United.  It's kinda "trendy" but I'd say it captures a lot of the feelings encountered in the conversion experience. 

As does this classic:
I Saw the Light, by Hank Williams Sr.

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